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Multifunctional Logistics in a Corps Support Battalion

During its deployment to Camp Taji, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom 06–08, the 867th Corps Support Battalion (CSB) was assigned to the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). With 10 different companies and over 1,600 Soldiers, it was perhaps the largest and busiest CSB in Iraq. The battalion’s efforts to achieve excellence were driven by an objective analysis of mission performance and an insatiable sense of accomplishment and pride in both individual and unit success. Although the battalion (known as the “Rawhide” battalion) developed into a cohesive team with a common set of shared experiences, history, and tradition, it was the diversity of the Soldiers and units within the 867th CSB that constituted the foundation of its success and espirit de corps.

Structural and Functional Diversity

As Lieutenant Colonel Michael D. Navrkal, the battalion’s commander, observed during the deployment, “We are all part of one team, working together.” A Nebraska National Guardsman, he led an organization of 1,623 soldiers representing all three components of the Army and three generations of Americans. Geographically, the Soldiers of the battalion came from across the continental United States and from overseas locations. The battalion’s Active component units were from Fort Eustis, Virginia; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Mannheim, Germany. The Army National Guard and Army Reserve units were based in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Mississippi, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Texas. The men and women of the battalion came from every walk of life in the civilian world and brought different backgrounds and perspectives to the unit.

The diversity of the battalion’s Soldiers was further demonstrated by the variety of each unit’s mission and skill set. This functional diversity gave the 867th CSB a wide range of logistics capabilities to support the sustainment requirements of Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND–B). To distribute supplies and materiel throughout the battlespace, the battalion could task its robust lift assets to move everything the warfighters needed to execute their missions.

When heavy equipment needed to be moved, the 1687th Combat Heavy Equipment Transport Company from the Mississippi Army National Guard executed the mission. The 120 M1070 heavy equipment transporters (HETs) assigned to this unit represented a significant portion of the HET assets in the theater. When palletized or containerized freight, ammunition, general commodities, or small vehicles needed to be moved, the mission was passed along to the 100 M1075 palletized load system (PLS) trucks in the 1060th Transportation Company, a Massachusetts Army National Guard unit, and the 370th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit from Texas. Additional lift capability was provided by the 60 M915 tractors and M872 trailers of the 494th Transportation Company (Light/Medium Truck) from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Bulk petroleum was transported by the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1157th Transportation Company (Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants) to units in the MND–B area of operations. None of these transportation support missions would have been possible without the convoy security assets provided by the two convoy security/gun truck companies assigned to the 867th CSB. A Battery, 1–115 Field Artillery Battalion, Tennessee Army National Guard, and C Company, 1–34 Armor Battalion, from Fort Riley, Kansas, protected every convoy and Soldier that went “outside the wire” on a daily basis.

The 867th CSB also supervised the operations of the 169th Transportation Company as that company operated the Camp Taji consolidated receiving and shipping point (CRSP) yard. The 169th is a marine terminal cargo transfer company from Fort Eustis, Virginia, and its Soldiers facilitated the smooth loading, offloading, transshipment, receipt, and temporary storage of all classes of supply and equipment with their materials-handing equipment. This unit also had Soldiers assigned to other forward operating bases, where they performed arrival/departure airfield control group (A/DACG) functions and facilitated intermodal and transshipment operations into theater.

Executing the maintenance support needs of internal and external units in the battalion’s area of operations was a significant undertaking. The multifunctional 512th Maintenance Company from Mannheim, Germany, provided direct support maintenance, managed a supply support activity (SSA) with over 5,000 authorized stockage list (ASL) lines, operated the class I (subsistence) and Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) warehouses, and installed lifesaving up-armor at the Camp Taji Objective Frag 5 Kit production facility.

Finally, the Soldiers in the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD) of the 867th CSB, from the Nebraska Army National Guard, served in the staff sections that coordinated the efforts of all of the battalion’s units and Soldiers. The tracking, reporting, tasking, prioritizing, scheduling, and advising performed by the Soldiers of the HHD provided the battalion and company commanders with the means to manage their vast resources and accomplish their missions.

Centralized Planning, Decentralized Execution

The battalion’s Soldiers worked as a team on every mission and drew from each other’s experiences and expertise to provide proactive combat service support to the maneuver commanders while simultaneously taking all possible measures to mitigate tactical and accidental risks. Every mission in the battalion was planned, resourced, rehearsed, and executed in the same fashion. Commanders and staff analyzed the mission to ensure effective use of carrying capacity. This process involved balancing requirements against capabilities, coordinating with movement control personnel and the supported organization, and proactively deconflicting any issues.

Execution of combat logistics patrols (CLPs) started when the gun truck and mission commanders received the mission. They then planned the route, prepared the vehicles, conducted Soldier and equipment precombat checks and precombat inspections, and conducted collective rehearsals. Every Soldier participated in a comprehensive mission rehearsal briefing at which all aspects of the mission were briefed and rehearsed. The CLP leaders attended an additional intelligence briefing with the battalion and company leaders to ensure that all route information, mission parameters, resourcing, and the concept of support were fully understood. Finally, each CLP conducted its own fragmentary order brief just before mission execution to update Soldiers on any changes to the mission and route conditions. Each CLP then proceeded on its mission, often operating for days on end. The battalion’s junior leaders (lieutenants and noncommissioned officers) made the mission happen.

To ensure success, the units in the 867th CSB worked collectively on every mission. Every CLP performed by the battalion involved multiple units within the battalion. The CLP mission commanders most often were staff sergeants or sergeants first class. The battalion could draw different combinations of platforms and crews from each unit assigned to the battalion as a CLP was organized. Combined with security elements from one of the battalion’s gun truck companies, each CLP was the result of detailed planning and teamwork.

As a self-contained organization capable of transporting every class of supply in theater, the 867th provided ground commanders in MND–B with seamless, flexible, timely, and responsive transportation support to meet the dynamic conditions of the battlespace. This forging of the battalion’s structural and functional attributes built interoperability, trust, and teamwork and enabled the unit to deliver the right commodity, to the right customer, in the right quantity, at the right time.

Quantifying Success

During the course of the 867th CSB’s deployment, its Soldiers directly supported up to 11 combat brigades on a daily basis, executed over 2,000 transportation movement requests, and delivered all classes of supply on 2 million miles of what are the most dangerous roads in the world. On any given day, the battalion had as many as 500 soldiers and 230 vehicles out on the roads providing responsive transportation support. These Herculean efforts permitted the soldiers of the battalion to transport over 250,000 tons of cargo and 10,000,000 gallons of fuel to over 30 separate forward operating bases. The Soldiers were instrumental in transporting the concrete barriers into the city of Baghdad that were used to secure many of the new joint security stations and combat outposts.

The 867th also provided most of the life-sustaining transportation support to the newly created Coalition Operating Base Hammer, a combat brigade base constructed about 15 miles east of Baghdad to support the Baghdad Security Plan. In addition to its dedicated support to the MND–B, the battalion also performed missions in support of MND-North, MND-Central South, and MND-West areas of operations, repositioning combat power and supplies to meet the operational requirements of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq commander. Though the majority of the battalion’s missions centered on transportation, numerous “Rawhide” Soldiers efficiently processed over 1,100 M1114 and M1151 high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicles through the Objective Frag 5 Kit production facility, thereby enhancing the survivability of their fellow Soldiers by installing lifesaving armor upgrades on their vehicles.

The Soldiers of the 867th CSB have much to be proud of. By receiving, storing, packaging, and distributing critical supplies and equipment to coalition forces, they lived up to the battalion’s motto, “Mission First, Soldiers Always.” The battalion’s command sergeant major, Command Sergeant Major Eli A. Valenzuela, once remarked during a mission commander intelligence briefing “that tough times and challenges do not necessarily build character, but, rather, tough times and challenges reveal character.” The mission and accomplishments of the 867th’s Soldiers revealed to every other Soldier in MND–B that the “Rawhide” battalion is made up of men and women of impeccable character and dedication to each other and to the Soldiers they support.

Drawing on their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expertise, “Rawhide” Soldiers worked to leverage their different capabilities into a common effort to sustain the fight and strive for excellence in everything that they did. If the statistical metrics fail to convince the reader of the battalion’s excellence, then just ask a “Rawhide” Soldier. He will tap his right sleeve and tell you that “we earn the right to wear this patch everyday.”

Major Curtis L. Abendroth, NEARNG, is the Support Operations Officer of the 867th Corps Support Battalion, Nebraska Army National Guard. He works as the Facility Engineer in the Construction Facilities Management Office, Joint Force Headquarters, Nebraska National Guard. He holds a B.S. degree in construction management from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Quartermaster Officer Advanced Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.

Captain Wayne R. Libbey, MAARNG, is the Commander of the 1060th Transportation Company (Palletized Load System), Massachusetts Army National Guard. A military traffic management specialist, he serves full time as the Transportation Manager, United States Property & Fiscal Office-Massachusetts. He holds B.A. degrees in political science and history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an M.A. degree in modern European history from Boston College. He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Basic Freight Traffic Course, the Installation Traffic Management Course, and the Combined Arms Exercise Course.